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What We Leave Behind

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Sow What?

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Sow What? as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2020, saying:

The South Seattle rapper and co-founder of WA-BLOC — a youth development program centered around social justice — takes a sizable leap forward on his third full-length. His most polished and cohesive project to date has a lucid-dream quality, with Rell’s poised, unhurried flows suspended over slo-mo space-funk productions.

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The Anniversary EP

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History Rhymes If It Doesn’t Repeat

Gabriel Teodros’s latest album has been five years in the making and is subtitled, “A Southend Healing Ritual.” The South Seattle Emerald describes it as “an album of healing from cycles of violence and oppression… raw, nuanced, and more personal than political.” CityArts suggests we should “think of Gabriel Teodros as Seattle’s CNN… providing the kind of street-level reporting that Public Enemy so ardently embraced… progressive activism with generous intimacy.”

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Boombox Detox

Boombox Detox begins with a harpsichord sample, something Classical, and then drops a scratch and a dry boom-bap beat. Before I was writing about hip-hop, I scribbled a bit about Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and the gang, so I’m always pleased when an artist digs into that genre for samples and inspiration. That’s certainly appears to be the case with this instrumental full-length from Ear Dr. Umz The Metrognome. In November, an uploading error resulted in him leaking his own record before he’d intended to, reminding me of that famous quote that art is never truly done so much as it stops in some interesting place. “ANTARES” is a fav track, with sexy jazz horns and a fascinating reversal, as is the astro-space scratching on “CLOSETOTHECHEST.” Every one of these 13 tracks contains small, detailed moments that reward a careful listener: Pay close attention to all the subtle ways the funk bass is manipulated throughout “SYSTEMSOUND.” Two bonus tracks close out the record and add vocals to the mix, featuring rappers ALCAZAR and Gabriel Teodros, the latter of whom delivers some of his best, most relevant verses on “MOST WARS ARE STILL FOUGHT WITH STORIES.” The doctor has orchestrated a worthy prescription for your ears.

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Children of The Dragon

Gabriel Teodros’ new album, produced entirely by AirMe, is a mature, restrained, and beautiful record. It’s his most solid work to date, pushing hip-hop forward as few can. I hadn’t heard about this release until only a couple of nights ago. Since then, I’ve been enjoying this surprise immensely. For those familiar with this particular Seattle cat, suffice to say it won’t disappoint; for those new to Mr. Teodros, it’s a perfect place to jump in. His work has always demonstrated a passion for the art like few others, and here it shines distilled and crystal clear. Truly, this is a work of beauty. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Evidence Of Things Not Seen

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2014,” saying that:

Gabriel Teodros is one of the most consistently excellent hip-hop artists in Seattle, an MC who knows who he is and what he stands for. In SoulChef, a producer from Auckland, New Zealand, GT found a collaborator to augment his socially conscious bars. Teodros is typically soft-spoken and Chef’s beats hit like a harder version of 9th Wonder’s: soulful boom-bap with crisp, smartly-looped samples. In the wake of Ferguson and Staten Island, the messages on Evidence Of Things Not Seen resonated even louder.

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The Blank Canvas

Filmmaker and hip-Hop musician Rafael Flores spent six years making The Blank Canvas: Hip-Hop’s Struggle for Representation in Seattle. The film attempts to document the unique identity of hip-hop culture in Seattle, through interviews with over 100 rappers, producers, DJs, graffiti artists, break-dancers, fashion designers, and promoters from The Town.

It takes us on a journey that investigates the origins of Hip-Hop in the Northwest, the legacy of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, the notorious 1985 Teen Dance Ordinance, Clear-Channel’s dominance over commercial Hip-Hop radio, the increasing popularity of white rappers in Seattle, and hip-hop’s struggle for representation in a seemingly liberal city.

The full 96-minute film is available for rent on Vimeo for $5. Watch the trailer below.

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Colored People’s Time Machine

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

Seatown rappers went certified worldwide in 2012 and that’s the word. But none of them in the fashion of Abyssinian Creole teammate, Gabriel Teodros. His Colored People’s Time Machine cuts a broad cultural swath with guest rappers from different countries rhyming in their native languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, and Tagalog, by my count).

While home is the central theme on CPTM, Teodros fashions the concept on his own terms, grappling with the intricacies of identity as a person of color and the realization that just because you were born in a specific place, it doesn’t mean that locale represents your cultural center. As always, the MC dons a critical, analytical cap, dropping piercing knowledge but always with love and a deft touch. As an ambassador to the rest of the rap world, Seattle can’t do much better than the homie GT.

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Crow Hill

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

A soaring achievement considering the bare-bones tools Air 2 A Bird (Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller) had to work with when making this album in Brooklyn. In its creation, Crow Hill captured the very essence of hip-hop: eloquent poetics, masterful improvisation, and a revolutionary spirit (albeit on a quieter and more reserved scale). This album proves that hip-hop executed with class and panache can be just as effective as the bombastic variety.

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Hidmo Next

Between 2006 and 2010, a Central District Eritrean restaurant called Hidmo served as an important hub for Seattle’s hip-hop scene. Its location at 20th and Jackson was “a community center masquerading as a restaurant,” according to Gabriel Teodros. It was run by two sisters–Rahwa and Asmeret Habtes–community organizers, activists, chefs, and entrepreneurs who offered up a safe space for artists, musicians, youth groups, nonprofits, and activists.

This 21-minute documentary from Scott Macklin captures the final closing night party for Hidmo. It’s “the place that fostered my art,” says JusMoni, before launching into a stunning acapella. Felicia Loud, Suntonio Bandanaz, THEESatisfaction, and OCnotes also share acapella songs and raps. The latter three crowd around a single microphone, for some “do-wop shit,” adds OCnotes.

There’s a real feeling of family throughout this film. Toddlers dance in the background during freestyle raps. You really get a sense of how special Hidmo was to the community. At one point, the camera veers away from the action and visits the kitchen staff and other people working behind the scenes. The director, Scott Macklin, makes a brief appearance in front of the camera to remind us that “Hidmo is about the we,” while addressing apprehension about what comes next.

This wonderful portrait is a beautiful testament to what culture can be fostered when “people just got together and did it.” Watching Hidmo Next in 2021 hits a little different: We lost Rahwa in August 2020 during our pandemic year. In a memorial tribute in The Seattle Times, Hollis Wong-Wear tried to sum up her impact: “Rahwa was the engine, the nucleus, the crucible of that space — I saw her as a titan.”

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Coolout 18

This film drops you into the crowd at the 18th-anniversary party for The Coolout Network, in 2009. Show creator Georgio Brown says the event was something of a dare: When he proposed a showcase featuring 18 of the top talents from The Town, everyone told him, “18 acts in one night? You can’t do it.” Nonetheless, this party proves the skeptics wrong.

There’s some wild live footage here, such as Sinsemilla performing their 2000 hit “Destiny,” or Silver Shadow D showing off his ability to rap and beatbox simultaneously.

Gabriel Teodros explains how meaningful both Coolout and Georgio himself have been to his growth as an artist. He recalls being 18 and rapping at the back of the bus, and Georgio walked up to him, handed him his Coolout card, and said, “You’re tight. You should do your thing.” You hear similar stories from many of the other artists in attendance, shouting out Georgio for “holding it down and documenting the scene. Y’all seeing history right here.”

This movie captures those elusive feelings of camaraderie and casual socializing: Watching it, you really feel like you’re hanging out at a Seattle hip-hop show on a Tuesday night, and everyone’s here and nobody’s in a rush to get anywhere.

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From Slaveships to Spaceships

From Slaveships to Spaceships, a 2009 release from Khingz is a Soufend gem of the Seattle hip-hop canon, and seriously, go listen to it right now on your streaming service of choice. It opens with a strong series of strings stabs, and a defiant definition of “The New Blaq.” Many songs here are meditations on the meanings of freedom, of blackness, and identity. The soul samples of “Reach In” channel the best Kanye production, and the verses throughout, the bared soul and sensitivity channel him, too. In 2009 this was one of 206UP’s albums of the year, and I’m not surprised. It’s a recent discovery for me and has quickly become one of my favorites of this whole summer, shaking my car speakers. The sexy-ass bass line on “Blaq Han Solo” will have you fantasizing about that girl you just want to eat nachos with, who you’ve been wanting to call, and just then, at the end of the song, it breaks into a phone call where Khingz is doing just that. Both Gabriel Teodros and Justo add some featured magic. There’s so much I love here: the rapid-fire spitting on “Hydroplanin,'” the reversed guitars on “Electric Tantra,” and the beat “Grillz, which is killer, but frankly, this whole record is off-the-charts good. I could itemize why every song is a banger, but really just go listen to it for yourself.

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Think Tank

Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious record in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ’s and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest’s third wave of hip-hop.

Think Tank is 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributors. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent. The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii), and producer/DJ Dead Noise. Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks. Other names appear as well… It’s a huge who’s who.

Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alongside upbeat soul samples, and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it’s all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up. Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade’s hip-hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Lovework

In the most recent issue of City Arts, you’ll find a poem contributed by Gabriel Teodros honoring the memory of J. Moore. Consequently, I found myself listening to Lovework on headphones at the moment when I ran into Gabriel himself outside of Neumos at last Friday’s memorial show.

This record recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and it sounds as fresh and honest today as it did in 2007. Exploring wide-ranging “big” issues from sexism to classism, immigration to geopolitical struggles, Lovework is also very damn funky. Press play and two songs in I’m already chair dancing. The way the bass drums and the bass guitar interplay throughout “Beautiful” is simply sublime as is the syncopated rhyme scheme in “East Africa.” Here’s a musician who understands the responsibility and opportunities of the microphone to influence hearts and minds. Seek this record out.

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Westlake: Class Of 1999

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Sexy Beast

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Preludes... Diaries of A Mad

Khazm is one of Seattle’s biggest hip-hop movers and shakers. He’s a true hip-hop scholar and activist. He’s a performer both solo and with his crew Cyphalliance, as well as being in the super-group The Building Project with Dume 41, Specs One, and Khingz. His grasp reaches much further into hip-hop culture, as he is a co-founder of the MAD Krew production company, as well as being a co-host of Zulu Radio. Most impressively, he founded 206 Zulu, the Universal Zulu Nation branch here in Seattle. He was even awarded a community leadership award from Mayor Nickels! If this ain’t a career steeped in hip-hop, I don’t know what is.

This 12″ is a stark and heart-wrenching testament to Khazm’s own personal resolve and strength in the face of adversity. Recorded at the University of Washington Hospital by fellow MAD Krew affiliate and 206 hip-hop guru Gabriel Teodros, “Life Line” cuts to the quick. You can’t help but tune in and stay riveted until the end. “Rhyme Artist” isn’t as intense, perhaps thankfully, but it’s truly a dope track that is made even more dope by appearances from King Kamonzi and DJ Scene. Sadly, this 12″ only provides those two tracks in their vocal versions, but in addition, “Buddafly” and “Summertime”, presumably off Khazm’s full length, are included as well as the instrumental versions of the vocal tracks provided. This is a 206 hip-hop document that is as important and crucial as it is riveting and entertaining. Beats and lyrics by the powerhouse known as Khazm. 2005 ish, do not sleep. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Reigncraft, Volume 4: The Labor

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Industreets

Here’s some forgotten greatness from the Northwest: Cyphalliance, a group of emcees, producers, and deejays spearheaded by Khazma 247, also known as the one and only Khazm. This was a relatively early project he and his MAD Krew was involved in (2003). Executive produced by 247 and Nosirrom, many of the tracks also give Khazm a producer and emcee credit as well.

Stylistically this is some high-energy, youthful consciousness mixed with a healthy dose of battle attitude. It’s some refreshingly energetic left coast music in the same vein as JKC or EX2, except that it’s so obviously from the 206.

The grayness that permeates so much of the tonality of Northwest music (both hip-hop and otherwise) is truly in effect here. The cover sums the music up perfectly – a group of young men standing in front of a cloudy sky backdrop, as seen in the reflection of a rain puddle in a drab parking lot. Perseverance in the face of the mundane. I was next to ecstatic when I found this long out-of-print chapter in Northwest hip-hop history, and I hope you enjoy it at least a tiny bit as much as I do. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Amerika 911

Amerika 911 was a Northwest compilation that dropped in 2002 in response to the increasing hostilities directed towards the Middle East by the US. It’s a brave, gutsy little anti-war testament; as it examines the U.S. motives for engaging in war, and dares to point fingers in directions other than at the obvious motives (i.e. September 11th and Osama Bin Laden). Listen to Kylea’s verse on the first track, “A Call To Arms” for an apt summation of this record’s contents.

If it had been widely distributed it probably would have caused quite a stir among all those of us blinded by pain, bigotry, patriotism, and nationalism. But of course, it didn’t, since it was an unpopular view from an unpopular (at the time) corner of the hip-hop map–and that’s too bad in my opinion.

This compilation is dope on many levels, musically, lyrically, politically, and consciously. Bottom line, we’re all fam. Don’t let any of the powers that be tell you differently. Many notable acts contribute, including Khazm, The Flood, Yirim Seck, Castro, Specs One, Gabriel Teodros, Khingz (back when he was still calling himself Khalil Crisis), Kylea of Beyond Reality, Vitamin D, H-Bomb, Silas Blak, WD4D, E-Real Asim of Black Anger, Surge Spitable, and El Saba, who provides the defining moment with “God Bless Humanity.”

The album is an interesting mix of 2nd and 3rd wave Seattle hip-hop and captures the sound of the Town during that state of evolution. Executive produced by Khazm and G. Teodros, released in part through MADK. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Sun To A Recycled Soul

As far as I know this is Gabriel Teodros’s debut, and it’s definitely rougher than his later records. He’s still developing his flow here, but the fire, eloquence, and themes he’s known for are already in place. It’s got that old-school, jazz sample-heavy flavor I love, and the rough, unmastered sound quality I crave in production. Jerm, Castro, and Khingz, among others, guest. It was re-released a second time with a whole bunch of additional guest emcees (Orko, Macklemore, Moka Only, Deps, Patrick, Rajnii). Vivacious music, from possibly the 206’s most impassioned orator. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Saiyan of Earth

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